LIVING IN THE TIME BETWEEN by Stephen Beazley

18 May 2020 by William Tibben in: Sermons

ACTS 1:6-14 (NIV) - So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

 
    He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.


     They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."


     Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city.  When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying.  Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.  They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

 "Living In The Time Between"   There are a lot of people who do not know how to live without excitement, without stimulation.  Whether it comes from pleasure or from crisis - they thrive on activity, on doing things – on solving problems - on adrenalin.
 The time that exists between one crisis or another, between one activity or another is regarded by them as dead time, as time that is lost - time that is unimportant, time that doesn't count.
 Even people who are not adrenalin junkies find it difficult sometimes, difficult to face a period of time in which not much is happening, a period of time in which they must wait for a promise to be fulfilled, for an event that they are looking forward to take place.
  Today's scripture reading from the Book of Acts tells us how the disciples found themselves in this kind of situation - how they found themselves having to face a period in which they would simply have to wait for Christ's promise to them to come true.
  After the resurrection Jesus visited with his disciples on several occasions.  He taught them, he encouraged them, he commissioned them to do a job.  Then - on the day of his ascension into heaven when they were anxiously asking him when his kingdom would be established, when the next instalment of the divine plan would take place, he tells them that it is not for them to know the times or periods established by God - but that they should go back to Jerusalem and wait, - wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, - wait for the power they would need to witness to him there, and in Judea and all of Samaria, and ultimately in all the world.
  For many, waiting is a dreadful thing.  Just ask any child. But it doesn't have to be like this.
  Living between times, living between occasions in which all of our minds and hearts and energy are absorbed in affairs of significance can, in fact, be quite wonderful.
  It can be - for us - a pause that refreshes - a time in which we gain strength - a time in which we quietly grow and are prepared for that which will come next.
  I like to read military history.     When the machine gun was first invented a problem developed with it.  It seems that if it was fired continuously for a period of time that the barrel would heat up and cause the gun to jam - even upon occasions to explode.
   At the beginning two simple solutions were invented to overcome this problem.  You could either change the barrels - or you could stop firing for a while and give it a rest.
  God knows that we too need periods of rest - periods of waiting - periods in which we can be changed - refreshed - and renewed, lest we, like those first machine guns, jam up or explode.
  And God provides to us periods of time which are times between - periods in which we can be strengthened and prepared for what is to come next.  The prophet Isaiah says that those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up on wings like eagles, the will run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
  In this perspective - waiting is a positive thing, the time between the making of a promise and its fulfilment is a time which is, or can be, highly beneficial to us.
  But living in the times between, in those times between one phase of our lives and the next, - between one job and another, - between the time when the first child has married and the last has yet to enter school - between the period when we have lost one dear friend and have yet to find another, these times can be difficult for us if we do not know how to wait in the manner recommended by the word of God.
  So how should we live in the times between?
  FIRST - we need to remember the times in between are meant to be active times - not passive times; times in which we are meant to work at that which is at hand - rather than at that which is yet to come.
  When Jesus ascended into heaven before the eyes of his disciples to take his place as Lord at the right hand of God the father an angel visited them and asked them: "Men of Israel - why do you stand looking up toward heaven?  This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same manner as you saw him go into heaven."

   Our attention is not supposed to be focussed so much on Christ's return - or on the next thing that we want to have happen in our lives that we end up forgetting what else is going on, that we end up falling asleep on the job.
  In the times between, our eyes are meant to be fixed on the present moment that God has given us and what it is God wants us to do with it and in it. 
  We are called to live now in the way God intended us - rather to live in the future.  The disciples heeded the word of the angel who asked them why they were looking up toward heaven -- and they returned to Jerusalem as they had been commanded and waited there for his promise to them to be fulfilled. 
  And while they waited - they devoted themselves to prayer.
  Which leads to the SECOND important part of learning how to live in the times between: - namely in those times we are called to live as Christ has shown us how to live - in obedience and in connection with Him and the Father.
  The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursing, Learn to labour and to wait.
  When the disciples returned to Jerusalem - they stayed together - in fact they joined themselves with the rest of those who believed in Jesus, with Mary and his brothers and many others, and they sought to be one as Christ had prayed that they would be.
  They stayed together and they prayed - and in so doing, they prepared themselves for the job Jesus had told them that they would do when the Holy Spirit came upon them as he had promised it would.
  In times between people often do take the opportunity to prepare themselves for what is supposed to happen next.
  There are many ways to prepare for what we believe is coming next, but in the end - for those who are seeking to do God's will and to see God's promises come true in their midst, prayer is of central importance.
  As Jesus told the disciples: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you - and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria - and to the ends of the world"
  Prayer and devotion to the mind and will of God is of central importance because it is this which prepares us for the gift of the Holy Spirit - it this which allows us to be open to the power the Spirit bestows.
  It is the Holy Spirit which enabled and guided the ministry of the disciples, and it is the Holy Spirit which enables and guides our own ministry as his followers, our own witness to Christ -- indeed it is the Spirit, and only the Spirit, which allows us to be fruitful with our lives.
  As the word of God says - it is the spirit which gives life... 
  Our task in the times between - whether it is a time between what is obviously one work of God and another, or simply a time between one event in our daily lives and another is to make ourselves ready to be used of the Spirit; that Spirit which may come, as it does so often - sooner than we think.
  How do we live in the times between?   First - we need to remember in the times between to focus on what is happening now, not on what is going to happen later.
   Second - we need to be follow the commands of God and keep connected with him through devoted prayer so that we are strengthened and prepared -
  And Third - in the times between - we need to trust and have confidence that what has been promised to us by God will come to pass. - whether that promise is of a spiritual gift, or a promise of comfort and of a new life or a promise to bless us and use us in some particular way in his service.
  We need the confidence, not because our confidence will change the outcome - what God promises to us will come to pass; No - we need this confidence because when we have it we open ourselves up to the peace of God and the other blessings that God has for us - right now - now in the time between all those other promises and the time of their fulfilment.
  To return to Isaiah's words - those words that say - those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up on wings like eagles, the will run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
  Notice in this promise the words - will and shall - and the total lack of modifiers in front of them.
  It is not - they who wait for Lord might renew their strength, it is not - maybe they will walk and not faint - it is - they will renew their strength and - they shall walk and not faint..
  Unconditional promises - attached to a simple statement of condition - the condition which says - They who wait for the Lord -    or as it says in the King James - they who wait upon the Lord.
  In the times between, the times of waiting, trust in the Lord to come through, remember his resurrection and his ascension into heaven to be at the right hand of God, remember what he has done for you in the past and wait for the next act - the next promise to come true with a firm hope.
  Trust in the Lord - not in other things - and live today – this day - as he asks you to, connected to him and to his word by prayer and meditation - and in holy obedience whether alone - or at work.  Praise Be To God, day by day.  Amen
  Loving and gracious God, your only Son was taken up into heaven and in power is seated at your right hand, where he intercedes for all those whom you have called to faith in Him. Clothe us now, we pray, with power from on high, that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may come to understand the immeasurable greatness of your power at work in us and in that strength do as Jesus commanded us - and make disciples of all nations - teaching them those things he has revealed to us - and showing forth in all that we do the glory that you have bestowed upon h